Bird Friendly® from the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal

December 3, 2008 by Robert Rice


The staff of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) is happy to announce that one of the latest origins to join the Bird Friendly® (BF) program hails from the Galapagos Islands, an important site in the history of science. It was in the Galapagos, of course, that Charles Darwin observed a number of finch species, studies that later helped him develop his ideas and theories on the role of natural selection and evolution.


Known as "Hacienda El Cafetal", this farm's certification as BF links the coffee, our research staff, and the consumers who drink it with the site where one of history's giant thinkers made tremendous contributions to science.

The farm in question lies nestled on the island of San Cristobal, with nearly 300 hectares of coffee certified as Bird Friendly®. From a history written about the farm, here's what the farm owners have to say about its location:

"San Cristobal, one of the largest islands and capital of the province that constitutes the Galapagos Archipelago, is the only one that enjoys an abundance of fresh spring water. Small rivers fed by the "El Junco", a volcanic crater lake, which lies 1,350 feet above sea level, flow gently down the rocky slopes on the island's sun drenched southern side. This mineral rich spring water keeps the rich volcanic soil moist and fertile, bringing life to the island. The misty interior and cold Humboldt Current enhance the floristic diversity of this unique island."

History of "Galapagos Coffee" - The Plantation

On February 12th 1832 Colonel Ignacio Hernandez took possession of the Galapagos Islands in the name of the Ecuadorean Government. These rocky islands, where Charles Darwin studied, attracted numerous scientists, naturalist and other adventures over the years, including Herman Melville, who wrote "The Enchanted Islands" and "Moby Dick".

San Cristóbal, one of the largest islands and capital of the province that constitutes the Galapagos Archipelago, is the only one that enjoys an abundance of fresh spring water. Small rivers fed by the "El Junco," a volcanic crater lake which lies 1,350 feet above sea level, flow down the rocky slopes on the island's sun-drenched southern side. This mineral-rich spring water keeps the volcanic soil moist and fertile, bringing life to the island. The misty interior and cold Humboldt Current enhance the vegetal diversity of this unique island.

In 1867, don Manuel J. Cobos, the first owner of the island, decided to try growing coffee on his land. Embarking on his new venture with youthful enthusiasm , he imported coffee seeds from the "old continent." Not satisfied with just any coffee, don Manuel settled on the Arabica Bourbon type as being the closest to his ideal of good coffee.

In 1875, he planted 100 hectares of Arabica Bourbon coffee on the Hacienda "El Cafetal," on San Cristobal Island. The plantation sits between 450 and 1200 feet above sea level, which is the microclimate equivalent of 1,350 to 3,600 feet above sea level on the mainland. This elevation is ideally suited for the growth of strictly hard bean, good acidity coffee. It was the key to high level of quality that formed the foundation of the enterprise that entered the world's coffee trade as "Empresa Agrícola Pecuaria"

As times changed and the world's coffee industry evolved toward high volume sales, the small, quality-conscious coffee plantation on San Cristobal fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned as unprofitable.

By 1990, the Gonzalez-Duche family purchased Hacienda "El Cafetal." Intrigued with the Hacienda's history and recognizing the unique opportunity the micro climates created by the Humboldt Current, the intense equatorial sun and the dramatic climate change that occurs as the altitude increases (110 degrees at sea level desert soil, and 50 to 60 degrees at 900 feet with richest fertile soil) created, the Gonzalez family recovered the plantation.

The Galapagos Islands are a national park, which UNESCO has declared a "Patrimony of Humanity." As a result, international and local laws strictly prohibit the importation or use of fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, or any other chemicals.

The Galapagos Coffee Plantation has the Organic Crop Improvement Association certification (OCIA) as Organic Shade Grown and the certification of the US National Organic Program. Added to the island's unique climate this creates an organically-grown coffee that is truly special in its presentation, aroma, body, and cup. This coffee is a jewel of gourmet coffee perfection with exceptional bouquet and fine taste. Annual production of this rarity amounts to about 4,000 bags and 1,000 bags of natural unwashed coffee.

Fact Sheet on Genuine Organic Galapagos Gourmet Coffee

Location:San Cristobal Island in Galapagos Archipelago of Ecuador
Soil: Volcanic
Altitude: 450-1200 feet above sea level(Equivalent to 1,350 - 3,600 feet of the mainland)
Plantation Size: 400 Has, 300 in full production
Botanical Type: Arabica-Bourbon (same trees planted 130 years ago and still in production!)
Crop Size: 5,000 bags per year
Harvest Time: Main crop Dec - March
Screen Size: 15+, 16+, 17+, 18+, 20+
Bag Size: Special Gourmet printed 46 Kls. (Jute or Sisal)
Preparation: 70% Washed, 30% Natural
Cup Quality: Intense aroma, excellent body, good acidity, very fine flavor
Chemicals: None, 100% organic
Certification: Organic, Shade Grow, and Bird Friendly by OCIA Origin Certification
Oddities: Grown in an ecological sanctuary, declared by UNESCO "Patrimony of Humanity.".

For more information on this exceptional organic and sustainable coffee, contact us.

Attn Mr Wilson Gonz´lez or Miss Alexandra Morla.
E mail:

While the absolute elevation of the coffee ranges just under 500 meters above sea level, the microclimatic effects of the cold ocean currents mimic an equivalent elevation of 1200 to 1300 meters according to the farm staff. The type of coffee grown on the farm is bourbon, one of coffee's more treasured heirloom varieties, highly prized for its flavor complexities.

SMBC is delighted to have this new producer involved with the BF program and looks forward to a long relationship that will help safeguard habitat, benefit the various parties involved, and protect birds through this linking of good land stewardship to the marketplace.

Contact information for this farm:

Hacienda El Cafetal
Contact: Alejandro Morla
Km. 4 Autopista Duran
Biloche, Guayas, Ecuador